WT Team Publishes Research into Highly Conductive Materials in Prestigious Journal

Chip Chandler

CANYON, Texas — Research by a West Texas A&M University team will be published in a national journal, helping the world get closer to finding materials that could conduct electricity at faster speeds. 

The team—Thinh (John) Nguyen, a graduate chemistry student from Da Nang, Vietnam; Dr. Keshav Shrestha, assistant professor of physics; and Duncan Miertschin, a May graduate from Amarillo—published research on topological materials Aug. 30 in Physical Review B, the world’s largest dedicated physics journal. 

Topological compounds are materials that conduct electricity faster than anything currently in use. 

This is the second time this WT research team has been published in the prestigious journal. In January, they published research into similar topological compounds. 

The research team published a related study in 2021 in Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. 

Their latest research focuses on the Fermi surface properties of nickel telluride and zirconium telluride, which are both considered Dirac materials, or theoretical particles that were first hypothesized through an equation developed by physicist Paul Dirac in 1928; the Dirac equation is considered a foundational work of quantum mechanics.  

The technological applications for Dirac materials have enormous potential; research into one such material was recognized with the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. 

Fermi properties determines how a material can transport electricity as well as its thermodynamic and optical properties.  

Nguyen, Shrestha and Miertschin used extremely high magnetic fields and extremely low temperatures, close to absolute zero, in recently conducted experiments at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Fla. 

“We hope this research enables us to understand the fundamental properties and the technological uses of Dirac materials,” Shrestha said. 

Support for their research came in part from WT’s Killgore Research Center, which provided nearly $10,000 in travel support and research lab supplies to the three researchers. The Florida lab also provided supplies worth nearly $30,000. 

“We have been working on this project more than a year and have overcome many challenges, so I am extremely delighted to see this research work finally published in a prestigious physics journal,” Nguyen said. “Being the first author of this work is my greatest honor and without the guidance of Dr. Shrestha and the other co-authors, I wouldn’t have achieved it. Being the first author also has taught me the value of hard work and how to be patient and responsible in scientific research.” 

Miertschin is now pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at Baylor University. 

Such research activities are one way in which WT is strengthening its position as a Regional Research University, a key priority of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. 

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched Sept. 23 — has raised more than $110 million. 

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